Friday night, ten o’clock. Mark sat at home at his desk, at a laptop keyboard. He loved the weekend because the week had exhausted him, and for now he could slow the stream of work worries into his head. He looked past his laptop, at the RadioShack transistor radio he kept. Thought back to high school, physics class, electronics. A capacitor stores and releases a charge. The experiment during lab, a capacitor misconnected straight to the power supply. In less than a minute the tiny, powder blue can exploded with a loud crack, yellow smoke, and acrid fume.
Mark looked at the laptop screen, the e-mails to get through: requests from clients, design problems from analysts, defects logged by testers, expense questions from finance. His organizing skill got him this job. But so much came so fast that he misfiled things. The thoughts had nowhere to go.
He turned on the radio. Could have streamed the station through his laptop, gotten better sound quality with the external speakers. But he liked the radio. It was simpler.
The weekend jazz show. Saxophone and piano and a woman’s smooth voice. Years ago. In moments it took Mark from his two-story, beige, vinyl-sided house, between suburbs and farmland, to Chicago’s Loop. He had paid the fifteen dollars and now sat to the side, alone at a small round table, a flame flickering in a dark red glass with a bubbly texture, a green bottle of Heineken in his hand. No calendars or clocks. Safe in the darkness, with the live music and live strangers, the occasional passing siren and flashing blue lights. He watched the young woman sing, the thin dress close to her slim body. And once in a while she’d look right at him. Her brown eyes reaching into him. He enjoyed just watching and listening, and imagining, to the notes of the piano keys, the brushes on the head of the snare, the meandering low-tone of the stand-up bass.
The piece ended and Mark ordered another. As the next number began he welcomed it, breathed it in, absorbed it. Until the beer and piercing sax bore into the place of his floating thoughts. That’s when Mark came back. Back to his house. His head on his desk and keyboard.